Gratitude and Evangelism: These words elicit very different responses for most people, yet both are scriptural and represent deep values within our Christian faith. For some, “evangelism” has become a bit of a guilt ridden term, for others it has become a term that represents oppression, superiority and elitism.
I have even met some in the faith who refuse to use the word anymore. They often cite the history of abuse that has been connected to this word. But as we know, the abuse of a good thing shouldn’t require the cessation of that good thing, rather that we reclaim the purity of that good thing and bring our praxis to health.
Some try to come up with new terms to develop new spheres of meaning and clarity (see the title above for example!) but let’s not replace the term itself. Evangelism has its roots in the ancient practices of the early followers of Jesus and in fact in Jesus Himself, the quintessential evangelist, exemplified this beautiful practice of speaking the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Freeing Up Evangelism
A deeper more theological understanding of evangelism will free us up to see it as it truly is: the act of bringing good news to others. Note the “good news” part. If it isn’t bringing good news, then perhaps it cannot be true evangelism. But if we press in even further, we see that it is a spiritual grace that comes from the Holy Spirit, which implies that the only way to truly use this gift is to be lead by the Holy Spirit. These two simple guidelines can free us up quite a bit: speak good news, but know the Holy Spirit’s voice well enough to know when to speak that good news. This requires maturity.
True, Deep Gratitude
God designed gratitude to be one of the most powerful forces in the universe. Consider the speech-act of gratitude: by merely being grateful, we are affirming that we didn’t deserve something but that we were generously benefited by something from someone. Gratitude assumes that a goodness has arrived, and that goodness is way beyond what was merely required in a situation. True, deep thankfulness cannot reside in our hearts alongside a host of negative attitudes.Gratitude is one of the most powerful forces in the universe - Jeremy Chambers Click To Tweet
A few years ago I went through harrowing circumstances that left me in a bit of a depression. The world seemed dark around me and all seemed agonizingly lost. I decided to orient myself toward gratitude. As I listed things to be grateful for, I saw the beauty of Jesus’s love for me. I realized how much goodness He is always making available to me, even in the blueness of the sky and the refreshing vigor from a deep breath. Soon my very breath was a reminder of His love that endures forever!
My situation hadn’t changed, but my perception changed drastically. The Lord used this to begin pulling me out of that murky and depressive condition and set my feet on solid ground. The power of gratitude runs deep. Just try to hold on to un-forgiveness and true, deep gratitude at the same time and see what happens. If you begin to explore the infinite depths of gratitude, you will find a well flowing with living water.
Into the blender – Grativangelism
Blend these concepts and something beautiful happens.
Imagine sharing good news of Jesus and His Kingdom from the perspective of deep gratitude.
Grateful for what He has done for you, grateful for your friends who take the time to allow you to share this good news with them, grateful for such a joyful message of reconciliation!
My wife and I make a practice of eating meals with friends. Many times these meals create transformative conversations, for all of us. We start out with gratitude for the opportunity to sit with our friends. In today’s overly busy culture, the fact that someone took time to eat with us is a miracle in itself.
Gratitude Creates a Pathway
But the gratitude is multi-layered: we are grateful for the food but we are even more grateful to our friend for being willing to be around us. In my experience, my friends outside the faith tend to perceive people of the Christian faith to be hateful and offensive. So when one of my friends or neighbors is willing to sit down with me (knowing that I am of the Christian faith), I see this as an exceptional act of love and trust on their part.
How gracious that my neighbors would consider me worthy of a meal! How gracious that they would be willing to risk being alongside ME (a known follower of Jesus). Some may read this in disbelief, but honestly, many in our city (and other cities I have been to in the U.S.) socially back away and become very guarded when they hear that I follow Jesus. But for those who take the time to still go deeper in relationship, I am infinitely grateful. I thank my friends for spending time with me. I have seen that through gratitude, my friends actually want to hear the reasons for the hope that lies within me, they want to know the reasons for such gratitude. Inevitably this leads to the sharing of joyful, good, wonderful news!
As citizens of the 21st century, we love our rights. We tend to assume that it is our right to share our viewpoints and beliefs with others, yet we forget that it is also their right to ignore or walk away from our message. Personal elitism assumes superiority over others because of something you have that they don’t have. It claims, “I am better than you, so listen to what I have to say.” But servanthood claims, “I am grateful to be in your presence, how may I serve you?”
These two postures make a big difference on the quality and scope of our influence and relationships. When we come from a posture of gratitude, we are recognizing that our friends are actually being extremely gracious to us if they decide to give us the right to share our deep and precious love with them. Gratitude opens the doors, the ears, and the hearts. Gratitude makes way for a friend. True, deep gratitude is intrinsically linked to true infinitely good news. May Christ draw us deeper into lifestyles characterized by deep gratitude and permeated until overflowing with good news!
If you are interested in going deeper with gratitude, I recommend Ann Voskamp’s, “One Thousand Gifts.” For those interested in discovering evangelism at a deeper level, I recommend the following diverse resources: “The Celtic Way of Evangelism” by George C. Hunter, “I Once Was Lost” by Don Everts and Doug Shaupp, “Power Evangelism” by John Wimber, and “The Master Plan of Evangelism” by Robert Coleman.